Paul Zollo - More Songwriters On Songwriting book review

Fascinating follow-up to the songwriter’s bible

Paul Zollo More Songwriters On Songwriting book cover

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On the 25th anniversary of writer-musician Paul Zollo’s first comes his ‘difficult second’ collection of interviews, drawing engaging, focused contributions from Randy Newman, Elvis Costello, Alice Cooper, Donald Fagen and dozens more. Zollo zooms in obsessively on their classics.

And it works. Flattered, they ponder their craft with a candour you don’t get when they’re wearily plugging their latest album. So Norman Whitfield reveals that he’s much prouder of Too Busy Thinking About My Baby than of I Heard It Through The Grapevine; Paul Simon explains that he tries hard not to sound preachy; Brian Wilson claims he always writes at the synthesiser.

Chrissie Hynde is insanely modest, and Patti Smith laughs that she writes songs to be loved. Bryan Ferry reveals Avalon was “much faster” at first; Stephen Stills insists it’s all about the groove. Leiber and Stoller? Influenced by Thomas Mann. This addictive book is full of such secrets and surprises.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.